You have most likely heard the phrase “core stability” at some point or another. You were also probably told how important it is for long-term injury and back pain avoidance. (At least we certainly hope you have.) I can guarantee that you have heard it if you have been a patient at New Heights Chiropractic as Dr. Kayla and I emphasize it daily! For all of you experts out there, let me now ask you a simple question: Do you know how many muscle groups actually make up the core of the body? The abdominals? Of course, that’s easy. Paraspinal muscles? Also correct, but keep going. You may not have realized it, but you will be hard-pressed to count the number of muscles involved with core stability on your just your fingers.
Achieving proper core strength the correct way requires that one know which muscles comprise the core of the body. Let’s start from the beginning. In general, core muscles are hard to feel and ultimately designed to limit movement of the spine. However, the deep, core muscle groups of the body also assist in powering all limb movement. Walking, running, completing a golf swing, throwing a football, or lifting weights are all actions that need core muscles to work appropriately. These muscles include:
- Rotatores – Cervical Rotatores, Thoracic Rotatores, Lumbar Rotatores
- Multifidus – Cervical Multifidus, Thoracic Multifidus, Lumbar Multifidus
- Semispinalis – Cervical Spinalis, Thoracic Spinalis
- Interspinalis and Intertransversarii
- Rectus Femoris, Internal and External Obliques, Transversus Abdominis
- Erector Spinae
- Psoas/Iliacus/Quadratus Lumborum
- Thoracolumbar Fascia
- Hip Flexors/Extensors/Adductors/Abductors
The listed muscles above span from the neck down to the pelvis and hips, meaning the core is not confined merely to the low back contrary to popular belief. If you forget everything else that I write in this post, remember that.
Okay great, so why should you care? Great question! Injuries and soft-tissue stresses occur when these core muscles fail to function effectively. These injuries trigger an inflammatory cascade, the body’s natural defense mechanism, which in turn leads to the laying down of adhesions between soft tissue layers. These adhesive tissues may then restrict motion and cause additional friction upon already sensitive soft tissues. Most importantly, this process will cause an individual to work much harder in order to accomplish the exact same movements that they were performing pre-injury. Would you want to work twice as hard to achieve the same results if you had a choice? Probably not.
Here’s the deal. Exercise alone cannot provide the strong core that athletes require and no amount of exercise can overcome the problems caused by these restrictive adhesive tissues. What, then, can you do to address these potential issues? It is critical to utilize Active Release Techniques (ART) to remove the restrictive adhesions from the soft tissue layers of the core in order to allow core exercises to have an optimum impact. Sorry to say, but doing hundreds of sit-ups per day will not be the solution that you seek!
Do yourself a favor and look into finding a provider that is certified in Active Release Techniques and can address these core deficiencies that may be the reason for your chronic aches or pains. You can find out if there is one in your area at activerelease.com. Only when you remove the movement restrictions of your body and adequately exercise the aforementioned core muscle groups will you be able to achieve your maximum potential for strength.
Stay healthy, my friends.
Dr. Dan Polizzi DC